Steambath Sizzles at the Odyssey
Paul Rodriguez, amongst a very talented cast, shines in the execution of the time honored play, “Steambath,” now at the Odyssey Theatre. From the fabulous mind of Bruce Jay Friedman comes this show, that he wrote in 1970, still relevant today, and cannot be extolled enough. Many aspects of the story are reminiscent of the wonderful Albert Brooks’ film, “Defending Your Life,” where the characters are in a waystation, as it were, between heaven and earth. Odyssey’s artistic director Ron Sossi directed “Steambath,” and his reputation in the Los Angeles theatre world is stellar. The Odyssey Theatre has produced so many iconic plays over its 49 year existence, and has garnered many well deserved awards. “Steambath” takes place in a men’s steam room (aka “hell”), and at first we see the sprite Gottlieb (Yusuf Yildiz), Tao dancing to his heart’s delight as he assists God. He dances his way into the steam room, where the men are only dressed in towels. One by one they reveal themselves, and tell their ‘back story.’ A former struggling stock broker (Brian Graves), tells of his rise and fall with the dalliance of the market. Two young gay men (DJ Kemp and Devan Schoelen), who both were in love with the same beautiful boy to tragic circumstances, meet the same fate as an old timer, (John Moskal), who has enjoyed a colorful life as a cab driver and merchant marine. He constantly tiffs with Beiberman (Robert Lesser), who lives his life as an iconoclast extraordinaire, with offensive habits like belching, farting, and spitting orange pits, while railing about fears of anti-semitism. A standout is Tandy (Jeff LeBeau), a quintessential Everyman, who is divorced, has an eight year old daughter, and is trying valiantly to write the history of Charlemagne. As the only female amongst this motley crew is Meredith (Shelby Lauren Barry), an ethereal spirit who wafts dreamlike into the very male dominated sphere and proceeds to take a shower, with steamy smoke as her cover (a very creative effect). She provides the feminine take on this group’s predicament: they’re all dead and nervously awaiting their fate. The guy who runs this establishment, all dressed in white, is none other than Paul Rodriguez, who like in “Waiting for Godot,” and”No Exit,” plays God, in the form of a Puerto Rican wise guy, who at the play’s onset, pronounced the demise of the differing, obnoxious characters, to their humorous deaths, respectively. The amazing thing about this production is that the producers wanted to update this already controversial story, adding up to date, modern dialogue reflecting the crazy, Trumpian times we live in! Yet, happily they still left much of the the original material intact, as Friedman’s world is not so different than ours, and cleverly includes ad libs about Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court fiasco, all so germane and powerful. There are other characters who add to this fable, that reminds me of the Chekhov opus, The Cherry Orchard. This is yet another top notch Odyssey collaboration that will not disappoint. Go see it; you’ll be well rewarded. Also deserving mention is set lighting (Chu Hsuan (Seth) Chang); and sound (Christopher Moscatiello) that guide you in and out of this lyrical, amusing, and timely reverie.
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Through December 16
Fridays, Saturdays 8pm
* also Wednesdays 8 pm , nov 28 and dec 5
* Thursday 8pm nov 5
For tickets: (310)477-2055
Instagram : @odysseytheatre